While the debate on Capitol Hill continues about whether to split the Farm Bill into two bills, the White House has renewed its threat to veto the legislation. Late Wednesday evening, the following statement was released by the Obama administration:
“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. Because the 608 page bill was made available only this evening, the Administration has had inadequate time to fully review the text of the bill. It is apparent, though, that the bill does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms and does not invest in renewable energy, an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country. Legislation as important as a Farm Bill should be constructed in a comprehensive approach that helps strengthen all aspects of the Nation. This bill also fails to reauthorize nutrition programs, which benefit millions of Americans — in rural, suburban and urban areas alike. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a cornerstone of our Nation’s food assistance safety net, and should not be left behind as the rest of the Farm Bill advances. If the President were presented with H.R. 2642, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
Meanwhile, efforts continue in the House to bring a Farm Bill back to the floor. The House Republican Leadership proposed Tuesday to split the Farm Bill into two parts, with a vote this week on farm programs and a vote on food stamps down the road. But whip counts show a low level of support, as farm groups are concerned about contents of the proposal and Democrats say splitting the bill could end urban-rural cooperation that has helped pass farm bills in the past. While House Ag Chair Frank Lucas reluctantly supported this approach if it would allow the farm bill to move forward, House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson is opposed and said he doubts the Republican votes are there to pass a bill. In order to get those conservative votes, leadership proposed adding a provision to repeal the permanent 1940s farm law which would make the 2013 Farm Bill the new permanent law. However, farm lobbyists question the addition of this provision without any debate.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says this plan to split the bill is unacceptable and unprecedented, not only jeopardizing the rural-urban connection in the farm bill but also putting critical food assistance for children, seniors, and military families at risk of even more cuts in the House. Gillibrand says hungry children deserve better than this complete dysfunction from the House turning a long-standing and bipartisan coalition upside down.